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From Cables to Commemoration: the Gold Coast home front 1914-1918

World War 1, also known as the Great War, had a profound impact on all of Australia. While there are many national stories about the war, there are also those particular to individual communities. At the outbreak of war in 1914, the Gold Coast, then known as the South Coast, was quite a different place than it is now. Far from the bustling commercial centres and suburbs of today, it was a lightly settled and prosperous rural district. By 1903, the South Coast Railway was completed and the Pacific Cable Board had established the electrical telegraph system that linked Southport (Australia) to England. This saw the region take on a significant role in Commonwealth communication. The Southport Drill Hall, built in 1890, became a focus for local military activity during World War 1, particularly in relation to protection of local rivers and waterways.

Life on the home front was characterised by extensive volunteer work, particularly by women. Comfort funds, Red Cross groups and patriotic funds were formed all over the Gold Coast and supported men and women abroad through supply of comfort packages and letters. The Gold Coast was also home to two Army Auxiliary Hospitals and a soldiers’ convalescent facility, where many soldiers came to mend and heal after their time abroad. Personnel returning to Australia also brought with them the influenza pandemic known as the 'Spanish flu'. This pandemic closed the Queensland-New South Wales border resulting in Coolangatta developing as an independent township distinct from Tweed Heads. At the close of the war, the Gold Coast celebrated with peace parades and the establishment of many monuments and memorials.

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